After reading GP’s piece on “Gannogate,” I didn’t think I needed to blog on the topic. I thought he had said all that needed be said on the topic, especially his point (which, I believe, is the only media-worthy issue in this story):
. . . if this guy was in fact a job-drifter and possible male prostitute (!!!) then what on earth was the White House thinking in giving him a press pass and access to the White House in this day and age of terrorism?
What has really offended me about this whole situation is the pretension of those on the left, notably Americablog’s John Aravosis who, as I understand, broke the story. Somehow, like Michelangelo Signorile in 2001, he thought it his business to publish salacious details about a gay conservative. Back then, Signorile published details about a contact ad Andrew Sullivan had placed on a gay website.
In the “WASHINGTON POST,” Aravosis justified himself: “What struck me initially was the hypocrisy angle.” Kurtz reports that he “said he was offended by what he called Gannon’s ‘antigay’ writing.” So, just like Signorile, nearly four years previously, Aravosis (soon joined by many others) decided to publicize details about the sex life of someone with whom who disagreed politically.
Publicizing such details crosses a line. While those who publicize the details may justify their actions with noble-sounding rhetoric, what they’re doing is really nothing more than engaging in the worst sort of gossip, spreading salacious stories in order to destroy someone’s reputation.
And that’s what happens when reporters (or bloggers) invade the private lives of individuals in the public eye. As a result of the Signorile piece, numerous individuals continue to gossip about Andrew’s sex life. One acquaintance told me that Andrew lies about his HIV-status to prospective (sexual) partners. In point of fact, Andrew has been very open about being HIV-positive.
Now, Jeff Gannon — and his family — face a different set of consequences from the invasion of his privacy. According to Accuracy in Media, Gannon’s “mother, in her 70s, had to endure harassing telephone calls from those on the political left trying to dig up dirt.” Harassing a little old lady.
Eager to embarass the president, John Aravosis has done little more than dress up his gossip-mongering with some fancy rationale. He may justify his actions by noting, as did Brian Montopoli on the Columbia Journalism Review’s Campaign Desk, that Gannon “squandered” his White House access by asking softball questions of the president and thus had to go.
As if asking softball questions of the president was something unique to reporters in the Bush White House. In the “NATIONAL REVIEW,” Tim Graham writes:
If anyone who asked softball questions at the White House “had to go,” the White House briefing room would have almost emptied out in the Clinton years. If we travel back to the Clinton era, it’s not hard to discover a whole chorus of White House reporters who, to use Montopoli’s words, squandered their access to Clinton with helpful softball questions, who put his agenda ahead of the public good and made a partisan spectacle of themselves in front of a large number of Americans who wanted the press to act as a watchdog of President Clinton.
I highly recommend Graham’s article where he details five softball questions reporters asked of President Clinton at a March 19, 1999 press conference. Instapundit pointed out that both Howard Kurtz and David Gergen noted (on CNN’s “RELIABLE SOURCES“) “that White Houses usually try to seed press conferences with friendly journalists.”
Since seeding press conferences with friendly journalists is common practice in Democratic as well as Republican administrations, it thus seems that there’s really not much to “Gannongate.” This whole story says more about those publicizing the salacious details of an individual’s private life than it does about that particular individual. So eager to “get” President Bush, they don’t care how many people they destroy in the process — or how many old ladies get harassed.
On this one, I agree with Instapundit: “targeting parts of people’s lives that don’t have to do with the story — like, say, Eason Jordan’s love life — seems inappropriate to me, and likely to lend support to the bloggers-as-lynch-mob caricature.”
Hat tip: Christian Grantham’s Outlet Wire for linking the two articles (Kurtz and Graham) which served as the inspiration for this post. (They’re also linked on the left column of this page.) He was also one of my sources for the Instapundit piece.